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New York to Visit Blowout Well, Complete SGEIS July 1

New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials have been ordered to visit the site of an April well blowout in northeast Pennsylvania and to complete a supplemental generic environmental impact statement (SGEIS) on hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking) by July 1.

In a May 27 memo to DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens, Director of State Operations Howard Glaser said public concern over hydrofracking has been on the rise and characterized the lessons learned from the April 19 accident at the Atgas 2H well in Bradford County, PA, as integral to a final review of the practice in New York (see Shale Daily, April 25).

"It is important that DEC take into account information concerning the incident in Pennsylvania," Glaser wrote. "To that end, I hereby direct DEC to review the issues raised and any lessons learned from the accidents in Pennsylvania and ensure that these issues are adequately addressed in the revised draft SGEIS."

Glaser and Martens were both appointed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

DEC spokesman Michael Bopp told NGI's Shale Daily that arrangements were being made for officials to visit the site of the well, which is operated by Chesapeake Energy Corp. "We can't confirm a specific timetable, but it will be soon," Bopp said Tuesday. "We're still working on those arrangements. It will be a real eyes-on assessment."

Chesapeake said the accident occurred after a valve flange connection to the wellhead failed during completion operations, causing fluid to discharge at high pressure. The company estimated that 240 bbl of well fluid and rainwater flowed over the top of containment berms at the well site and onto adjacent land, and about one barrel of highly diluted hydrofracking chemicals entered an unnamed tributary of Towanda Creek (see Shale Daily, May 16).

On May 17 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection fined Chesapeake nearly $1.09 million for natural gas drilling violations. Subsidiary Chesapeake Appalachia LLC agreed to pay $900,000 for contaminating private water supplies in Bradford County after the Atgas 2H well blowout (see Shale Daily, May 18).

In July 2008 then-Gov. David Paterson directed DEC to prepare the SGEIS, which effectively placed a moratorium on drilling horizontal wells in the New York portion of the Marcellus Shale. In the closing days of his term, Paterson extended until July 1 the deadline for DEC to prepare the SGEIS (see Shale Daily, Dec. 14, 2010).

Asked when the revised SGEIS would be available to the public, Bopp said, "The process after we complete the revised draft SGEIS is still to be determined, but we are under a current executive order to make it available for a public comment period at some point."

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